the first few hours: Batman Arkham Origins

When Bioshock Infinite was released earlier this year, the first wave of reviews were positively glowing with praise; it wasn’t until a few weeks later that the game’s more glaring flaws started to show.  A similar thing happened with Grand Theft Auto V – that first wave was all 10/10, 9/10, near-unanimous accolades, and then, as the rest of us sunk our 60+ hours in over a more reasonable amount of time, the game’s problems became a lot more apparent.  I can’t help but wonder if the insane timecrunch that most big-league reviewers have to undergo in order to get their pieces out by release day means that they can’t see the larger picture.

I’m not saying those reviews are wrong, necessarily; I’m just saying that there are two different ways of spending 50 hours with a game, and that the one in which those 50 hours are spent non-consecutively are obviously going to have a certain degree of perspective that the time-crunched player simply can’t have.  This is the nature of the beast that is video game journalism.

This is partly why I tend to avoid official “reviews” here on this site, and why I prefer to write these pseudo-real-time documentaries instead.  While it’s dumb to describe the life of a non-profit videogame blogger as “luxurious”, the truth is that I, as a non-big-league writer, have the luxury of not having any deadlines.

In any event, I’m around 90 minutes into the lukewarm-reviewed Batman Arkham Origins, and – at least so far – it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it might be.  Perhaps it starts off strong and then peters out?  Perhaps it’s simply that it’s keeping to the well-worn formula of the previous two games and doesn’t add or improve anything of any significance?  No matter; it’s doing what the Batman games do and it’s doing them well enough for the time being.

If I have one particular nit to pick, it’s that if you happen to get into a random combat encounter, enemies will seemingly spawn in from thin air; you might have a strategy to deal with the 4 or 5 dudes that you can actually see, but then 10 more will fly in from nowhere, and it’s the sort of thing that makes these fights become longer and more tedious than they need to be.

I suppose another nitpick isn’t actually this game’s fault, but rather my own; I just spent 50 hours playing Assassin’s Creed 4, and while a lot of the controls between the two games are similar (especially when it comes to melee combat), there are a few that are very much not; a key example is that in AC4 the run button is mapped to the right trigger, whereas in BAO the right trigger makes you sneak.  I suppose this is actually something that could come in handy, as it’s usually not a good idea to run around as Batman, but it’s still the sort of thing that makes my brain hurt every once in a while as I struggle to get acclimated to a new control scheme.

All that aside, I’m enjoying it.  Maybe it’s not as inspired as the previous two games, but it’s still doing what those games did and doing it well enough, and for the time being that’s quite enough for me.

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